Wow, what a first!
The newly elected Executive Director of the National Basketball Association Players Union is an African-American woman!
Michele A. Roberts, a Partner at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP & Affiliates was elected late last evening in Las Vegas, where thirty-two of the thirty-six possible votes were cast in her favor by team representatives and NBPA executive committee members. Roberts was the clear winner among the final three candidates for the position, which included Dallas Mavericks Chief Executive Officer Terdema Ussery and tech industry Chief Executive Officer Dean Garfield.
Michele A. Roberts is the first female to be elected to the highest position of a major sport’s players association within the United States.
“On behalf of the NBA, I would like to congratulate Michele Roberts on her appointment as the NBPA’s new Executive Director and look forward to working with her and the NBPA Executive Committee to ensure the continued health and growth of our game,” said NBA Commissioner Adam Silver in a statement following the election of Roberts. ”The partnership between our players and teams is the backbone of the league, and we are eager to continue working with the Players Association to build this relationship.
A 2011 article in Washingtonian magazine referred to her as a “renowned trial lawyer” who “is known for dazzling juries.”
According to Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Roberts was the choice of NBPA president, and Clippers point guard, Chris Paul, who rounded up the votes amid a somewhat contentious meeting of union executive committee members and player representatives from NBA teams.
The Clippers guard said he was impressed by Roberts’ grace under fire, fresh ideas and quiet resolve during an extensive interview process.
“Today, we started out by telling the players how monumental today was,” said Paul, the president of the players’ association. “We’ve never had this amount of players here for a meeting, to give their input and feedback. After all the hours and time [put in by] our executive committee, along with an amazing search committee that helped throughout this process, it’s an unbelievable feeling to have the wonderful Michele Roberts now as a part of our team.”
Paul said Roberts was flush with fresh ideas.
“One particular member from our search committee … asked her a very tough question in the interviews and [vice president] Roger [Mason Jr.] almost fell out of his seat after she finished giving her answer,” Paul said. “Even though she’s a female, she’s very relatable to a lot of our players. I think that’s what really hit home for not only myself but some of these other guys as well.”
Roberts said she would assemble a management team to run the union, perhaps even changing the union bylaws, before diving into negotiations on a new collective bargaining agreement. The players can opt out of the current CBA after the 2016-17 season.
“They’ve got their union back, and I’m going to make sure that they are empowered to take their union exactly where they want their union to go,” Roberts said. “It’s going to be a team that’s going to empower them to be able to do their business as they decide.
“I am a bad woman, but I’m not that bad,” Roberts said. “We are going to have a team, a very strong team, what I call a team of gladiators, that’s going to help these men and women, again, go in the direction they choose to go. It’s a new day. It’s not a one-person, Superman, ‘I’ve got this.’ It’s going to be a team.”
That was exactly what the executive committee seemed to like about Roberts’ vision.